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Walking Dead Spin-Off Actress On Seeing Walkers For The First Time - Exclusive

Walkers, roamers, biters, lurkers, rotters — these are just a few of the many names used to identify zombies in The Walking Dead and its companion series Fear the Walking Dead. Now, they can also be referred to as "empties," a new alias for the undead that you'll hear spoken throughout World Beyond, the latest spin-off series in the Walking Dead universe that introduces us to a cast of all-new young adult characters fighting to survive the zombie apocalypse. One of those new characters is lead protagonist Iris Bennett, a young student at the Campus Colony of Omaha.

Built on the grounds of Nebraska State University, the Campus is a safe haven that mostly consists of young colonists who have spent the last ten years growing up during the initial zombie outbreak as seen in the debut season of The Walking Dead. They live a sheltered existence as they continue their studies, and aside from some survival training provided by their onsite security task force, most of them have never had to face the harsh realities and undead menaces that lurk outside of their community walls.

That all changes when Iris receives a distress message from her father, who is being held captive at a secret Civil Republic Military facility somewhere in New York. She soon embarks on a treacherous rescue mission, and it's not long before she comes face-to-face with a decaying Walker out in the wild. In fact, she vomits when she gets an up-close look at it. To actress Aliyah Royale, Iris' reaction isn't too different from her own. During an exclusive interview with Looper, she revealed that she, too, is repulsed by zombies.

Aliyah Royale considers walkers 'the most terrifying creature to have ever been created'

"I think walkers are possibly the most terrifying creature to have ever been created," says Royale when asked how big of a Walking Dead fan she was before landing the part of Iris. "So actually, I stayed very, very far away from The Walking Dead. My brothers were obsessed with the show. They still are. I always talk about how that year for Christmas, the first year the show came out, they had Walking Dead calendars — just everything Walking Dead that you could possibly have."

Royale is currently 20 years old, so as you can imagine, she was quite young when The Walking Dead first premiered in 2010. Seeing that show for the first time was clearly a visceral and frightening experience for her, and it seems it left a lasting impression in her pre-teen brain. "I remember sitting on the steps upstairs, watching them watch the show, behind them, seeing the TV, and then every time a Walker came on, running and crying to my mother," says Royale, who clearly has fond memories of the show, no matter how much it petrified her. "But I never imagined that I would actually end up being a zombie killer, and it's been the greatest ride."

As many fans are already aware, The Walking Dead's never-ending assembly line of ghastly and disturbing walkers are brought to life by executive producer and special effects wizard Greg Nicotero and his wondrous staff at KNB EFX Group. Seeing his hyperrealistic, Emmy-award winning creations in the flesh must have been quite a hair-raising moment for an actress who has a primal childhood fear of zombies.

"My first encounter was during one of our first days on set, but it was a night shoot," says Royale, who recalls her first onset run-in with walkers. "So, I'm already a little bit delirious anyway. I remember going into the catering hall because I was hungry and I was looking for some chow. I opened the door, and I kid you not, I did not know that they were going to be there. I had heard that they were coming to set at some point, but when I look at the call sheet, I see my name and that's it. I disregard everything else. And I open this door, and single file, 20 to 30 walkers, just in the full costume, full makeup, ready to charge the set, just single file, walk out the door. I hid behind the door. I waited until they were gone, gone, gone. And then I ran to my trailer and called my mom. It was the craziest thing. It was the best introduction I could've gotten into this universe."